For thousands of years, gold and silver have been the two most popular and valuable metals used for various purposes. They are an integral part of the jewelry industry as they are used in producing all kinds of jewelry. However, if there was a Jewelry Olympic Games, which of them would take the gold and silver medals and why?
History Of Gold And Silver in The Jewelry Industry
Gold and silver have been important parts of the jewelry industry for millennia; below is a cursory look at their evolution within the industry.
Firstly, gold as a precious metal has been mined and refined as far as civilization and has been a luxury symbol for thousands of years. The value of gold is long established by its rarity, difficulty to refine, beauty, and endurance.
You can trace the earliest evidence of gold jewelry to about 6,000 years ago in ancient cultures such as China, Egypt, India, Mesopotamia, and Meso-America. These ancient civilizations used gold to create things like rings, crowns, necklaces, and other ornaments. Gold was almost exclusively used by the royalty or nobility because it was expensive.
Nowadays, gold is relatively less expensive and more widely used because it is hardly used in its pure form for jewelry creation. These days, almost all gold jewelry is made from alloyed gold, a mixture of gold with another metal like copper or silver, changing the color and qualities of the gold. The mixture of gold with other metals also prompted the need for a karat system, with 24 karats being 100% gold while anything less is a mixture.
Silver was first discovered around 5000 BC and, in the following millennia, has been used in the creation of things like eating vessels, sculptures, and currency. Ancient civilizations like Egypt and Greece used silver jewelry exclusively for pharaohs, priests, and other members of the nobility.
The use of silver by people outside the highest class of society only began in the mid to late 19th century or Victorian Era.
The major cause of the increased availability of silver was the Industrial Revolution which led to an increase in the English middle class. These middle-class citizens had a high demand for silver jewelry, and for the first time in history, there was technology to support mass production. Bespoke silver jewelry was still available and was still “reserved” for the upper class because of the high cost of production.
Silver faced a downturn in popularity from the early 20th century, partly because of the two world wars and the increasing popularity of gold and platinum. Later in the 20th century, silver regained its place as a metal popularly used in the jewelry industry. In the 21st century, silver is at the forefront of mass-produced jewelry; however, bespoke or vintage jewelry still has a reserved place in the market.
Comparing Silver And Gold Jewelry
With the awareness of how long these two metals have been a part of the ever-evolving jewelry industry, it’s interesting to check how they compare.
In this category, the comparison between metals isn’t even close, as gold is multiple times more expensive than silver. At the time of writing, an ounce of gold costs around $1,870, while silver is roughly $22 per ounce (according to Trading Economics).
Although they are both considered precious metals, the price discrepancy of gold and silver has always been like this since both metals were discovered. Silver jewelry is much cheaper than gold because it is more available and easier to refine and produce.
Gold jewelry nowadays is cheaper than ever because most gold jewelry has been alloyed with other less expensive metals. Gold is mixed with other metals to compensate for its highly malleable nature. The lower the purity of gold used in jewelry production, the cheaper that jewelry would be. Some countries specify that anything less than ten karats (~41%) isn’t legally considered gold jewelry.
24 karat gold scratches very easily but is hard to break, while silver can be easily affected by wear and tear and can change, bend, or change shape over time. Despite the high malleability of gold, it is one metal you can be assured would not feel the effects of corrosion or oxidation with time.
The same cannot be said about silver, as storing your silver jewelry in moist conditions can lead to oxidation and corrosion of the jewelry. Older silver jewelry show signs of antiquity, to which some attach sentimental value.
There’s a popular saying that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”; what people consider beautiful jewelry would always be a relative term. However, few can look away from the brightness of pure 24-karat gold; silver holds its own well in terms of luster.
The various “flavors” of gold are determined by the metal alloy used, and this variety is something silver doesn’t offer. For example, gold mixed with silver is white gold, while gold with copper produces rose gold. The ratios of each metal alloy can be finetuned to make the jewelry richer in a particular hue.
Contrary to popular belief, people are not often allergic to silver; what they are allergic to is nickel, which is used in the production of 92.5% sterling silver. A rash or lumps on the skin, redness or changes in skin tone, itching, dry spots, and other symptoms may occur. These symptoms of nickel allergy can last up to four weeks.
While copper is the main alloy in sterling silver, nickel may be present in the remaining metals. Interestingly, nickel is also present in white gold, but rhodium plating is used to protect the skin against nickel. However, the plating wears off with use, exposing the wearer’s skin to the nickel and causing allergic reactions.
If you want to avoid allergic reactions, it is best to opt for yellow gold jewelry or pure silver.
Is Silver Better To Wear Than Gold?
The question of whether silver is better to wear than gold is determined by use. Both metals have their selling points which determine what they are best used for. For instance, many people prefer their engagement rings to be made of rose gold, while gold is the most preferred option for Cuban link chains.
If you’re looking for a piece of jewelry that you want to use long-term, like a wedding ring, then high-purity gold is a great option. However, silver is great for jewelry you plan to replace over time.
Jewelry For Skin Tone
An important factor that people use in deciding between silver and gold is their skin tone. While there is no hard and fast rule to this, people with cool skin tones tend to prefer silver and white gold. People with a warm skin tone prefer metals with calmer colors like gold, rose gold, and yellow gold, while neutral-toned people look great in both colors.
The idea is to not pick a color that highly contrasts with your skin. However, your skin tone is usually complemented by your clothing.